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August 18, 1993

Studies Raise Doubts About Benefit of Athletics in Reducing Unhealthy Behavior Among Adolescents

JAMA. 1993;270(7):798-800. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510070020004

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ATHLETICS has been regarded widely as a means of encouraging children and adolescents to develop healthy habits and steering them away from smoking, drug abuse, and other detrimental behavior. Recent studies, however, raise some doubts about the role of sports in fostering healthy habits among the young.

At the 40th annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, held in Seattle, Wash, new data were presented. Deborah J. Aaron, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh (Pa) Graduate School of Public Health, reported preliminary findings of a 3-year longitudinal study of high-risk behavior among children in a metropolitan school district near Pittsburgh. Results from the first year suggest that school- and community-based athletic programs may provide little overall benefit in discouraging unhealthy behavior among adolescents, Aaron says.

In a related presentation at the conference, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, Calif, researchers reported study findings suggesting